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I have to credit Norman Goldman mentioning this on his show Friday afternoon. William D. Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. CNN featured this article, There's plenty to cut at the Pentagon 2/22/13. (Norm also went off on the idea that 9 years from yesterday will be 2/22/22. What will the world be like when I'm about to turn 70? Still working on that...)

Having married into an Air Force family, I spent decades learning the good, bad and ugly they experienced. Over the years my reading included Spinney, Wheeler, Johnson, Carroll and others who reinforced my assessment of the Pentagon being a very large herd of sacred bulls.

Hartung introduces his subject noting all the folks (Panetta, Joint Chiefs, war industry CEOs) who weighed in on what horrors will happen if the Pentagon budget is cut.

To hear them tell it, the most powerful military in the world will grind to a halt if it is required to cut its $500 billion-plus budget by about 8%.
Sweet, he goes on to point out the management problem at the Pentagon and the GOP delusions in the SecDef hearings.
Given this reality, it is astonishing that former Sen. Chuck Hagel, the Obama administration's nominee for secretary of defense, has been chastised for pointing out the obvious: The Pentagon's budget is bloated and ripe for reform.
Then he details the biggest losers.
...three versions of the F-35 ...the most expensive weapons program ever undertaken. ... in an era in which aerial combat is of diminishing importance..
....
Navy... is planning to invest... in the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), a system that has suffered serious performance problems... the service maintains its attachment to building costly and unneeded ballistic missile submarines .., even as possessing thousands of nuclear weapons is increasingly irrelevant to our security.
...

the Army ...bemoaning ... budget cuts at the level called for under the sequester would cost up to 300,000 jobs... [which] ignores two key facts: Our domestic basing structure is larger than it should be, and we have more troops than we need in a world in which we will no longer focus on fighting large, boots-on-the-ground conflicts.

Hartung estimates the savings on those three at 18.5 billion a year. 185 over the decade. He goes on to point out the excessive use of subcontractors. A 15% reduction there would yield 35 billion/yr. That comes to $53.5 billion annually, and THEN he gets to:
The most outrageous fact of all is that the Pentagon can't even figure out how much of our money it is wasting. The department has never passed an audit.
The Fed audit turned up 16 trillion. Any bets on the Pentagon?

Just to add to your ammo for fighting Pentagon budget battles, go on over to the Center for International Policy and check out Hartung's further discussion on Minimum Returns: The Economic Impacts of Pentagon Spending. I'm sure you will be SHOCKED to learn:

Over the past two years, Pentagon contractors have financed a series of studies that have made exaggerated claims about the economic impacts of reductions in Pentagon spending.  This report refutes a number of the key findings of those industry-backed reports, which have been extensively promoted in an effort to influence politicians and the media in Washington and around the country.
I am quite impressed with the CIP. Plenty of other interesting items there. Also found another source, Arms Control Association. Administration Poised to Trim Costly Nuclear Weapons Excess. One of Obama's very special efforts.

Finally, one of the possibilities that isn't in Hartung's sights are a few of our overseas bases, outposts, etc. Maybe return Diego Garcia to the Chagossians? What's in your dreams to take out of the Pentagon wallet?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (8+ / 0-)

    "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

    by Ginny in CO on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 04:30:07 AM PST

  •  I Don't Often Mention This Here (5+ / 0-)

    cause I am not so proud of it. So bear with me. For several years of my life I worked at a firm where it was my job to track all federal procurements for the Navy, DoD, and a few other civilian firms such as the EPA.

    When you have a $500,000,000 or a few billions dollar procurement it can take years from announcement to award. It was my job to track them for the largest defense contracts.

    Later I would work as a marketing consultant for said defense contractors.

    I know more about this topic than I care to admit. I was the dude that could speak "procurement speak" and would write 200 page white papers on this program or that program.

    To say there is tens of billions in wasted spending would be an understatement. To say the DoD can't but spending by hundreds of billions is a joke.

    Let me give you one example. Most folks don't know this, but Al Gore did something as VP that was stunning, under Bill Clinton's "Reinventing Government" idea.

    Gore lead a team that totally revamped procurement. He did a ton of things I won't bore you with.

    But one huge thing he did, and this might and/or should blow your mind. There is a term called COTS. It stand for Commercial Off The Shelf. Now nobody acutally goes into Best Buy anymore and buys Microsoft Outlook, but that would be a COTS product. Something you, me, or the goverment could buy.

    There is a COTS software product for almost anything. Well until Gore came around the government, and the DoD more than anybody never bought software this way.

    In the mid-90s, and I forget the offical program name, the Navy spend about $10B on email software and setting up a network.

    Did they buy Outlook or another COTS product. Nope, they developed their own system and software, at a cost many factors higher than just buying something and tweaking it for their needs.

    I hate to get long winded but untold billions were lost in this manner.

    That changed a lot after Gore was done. But still a program. Again billions and billions (I am looking at your IRS for your $25B tax modernization program).

    This is just one example of many where billions are wasted, not on something they don't need, but just waste.

    I could come up with dozens of other examples.

    When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

    by webranding on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 04:49:58 AM PST

    •  Gore did do a lot with the Reinventing (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      webranding

      Government program. I wasn't aware of this part but it sure fits him.  Another read I can't quite remember and is packed was by a Nam vet who went on to work for contractors. Over and over the times and ways he wrote contracts, adjusted parts, and the major defense contractors he worked for got really inflated profits.

      The hypocrisy, as always. So patriotic, while they fleece another few million from the tax payers.

      Yeah, I think these are puny amounts, just have no expectation we can get to as much as there is until an audit that doesn't smell comes up with real numbers and sink holes.  

      Maybe they could have a place people with experience like you could anonymously suggest where to look. ;)

      "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

      by Ginny in CO on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 05:09:38 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  EDS Was Famous For Screwing The Government (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ginny in CO, A Siegel

        in a manner similar to what you mentioned above.

        Some of the largest goverment contracts are for "Desktops." Just what it sounds like, computers. Take an agency with 50,000 employes and all the hardware and software, well that is billions over the term of the contract."

        The inital part of the contract was the equipment and software. EDS (I know this cause they were a client of mine) would underbid everybody.

        Win the contract.

        The second part of the contract was service. Resolve problems. Handle softwware and hardware upgrades.

        EDS would regig at this point and then make up all their money they lost underbidding the hardware and then make billions more.

        It wasn't even an open secret in procurement circles, much less the government itself. Nobody seemed to care.

        When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

        by webranding on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 05:18:30 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yup, that was one of the tactics he (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          webranding

          wrote about. Underbid, then have a way to add more costs. They did a lot of haggling on cost plus contracts too. I think Carroll's House of War helped me get a clue about the Pentagon mindset. It's an entitlement because of the mission. For some of them. Others are just in it for their own reward.

          "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

          by Ginny in CO on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 05:28:30 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Re: (0+ / 0-)

      If you could purchase Outlook in the mid-1990s, you had a time machine.

  •  How About Two Other Interrelated Examples (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ginny in CO, Gary Norton

    one is a contract type called IDIQ. It stand for Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity. These are usually IT contracts. Where one government agency (no I am not making this up) basically sets up a store where other government agencies can buy from them. They even produce hundred page catalogs (or they used to) Think of it like a Best Buy on steroids. Imagine an IT product and you can buy it.

    Now look at the last two terms in IDIQ. Indefinite Quantity. Literally it is just an open PO to buy as much as you want without having to show you have any need for it.

    The second interrelated thing is "use it or lose it."

    GSA was a client of mine and I recall walking into their office one September (the end of the fiscal year for the Federal government).

    There were literally printers, computers, and monitors stacked to the ceiling. I asked my client if they were upgrading.

    Nope, they just had the money in their budget so they needed to spend it before the end of the year, cause they (1) couldn't carry it over to the next year and (2) if they didn't spend all of their budget, there was a chance it would be cut the next year.

    Ponder that for a few minutes.

    When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

    by webranding on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 05:09:52 AM PST

    •  Use it or lose it is one I keep trying to figure (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      webranding

      out why they can't make some kind of administrative rule that will get you fired for doing it. Even had a nightmare about some item that was warehoused and became obsolete before anyone realized how much and where it was stored.

      FWIW, when my ex did environmental work for the big oil companies on the slope, he found the same overstocking there. And it wasn't because of the distance, etc. Almost like hoarding.

      "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

      by Ginny in CO on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 05:18:11 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm An Air Force Brat And My Father Loves (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ginny in CO

        to tell this story. He was pretty senior level. At this time GS-18. Late 80s and he was going to a meeting at the Pentagon and giving a few classes on the use of air power.

        He called his procurement guy and asked him to order a tape recorder. It was sent to his office. He called the procurement person and asked him what it cost, cause it looked like something the Rolling Stones could use to record a session, and he was told $1,200.

        My dad lost it. He said a $40 microcassette was all he needed, he'd just buy it himself. He ended the call saying if that person ever did something like that again, he'd have his head on a plate.

        I should note my father is about the most laid back person in the world, but he does cotton much wasting money. Doesn't matter if it is his money or the taxpayer money.

        That is just how he rolled.

        When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

        by webranding on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 05:33:25 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Mothball five carriers and use the money saved (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    webranding, Losty, Ginny in CO, CupaJoe

    to buy more wind turbines and solar panels to increase our energy independence so that we don't need TEN carrier battle groups to project power all over the world.

    If we were no longer dependent on MidEast oil, and did not have to protect the sea lanes there, we could park some of those carriers and pocket the money.

    The problem with carriers and their battle groups is that we think, as the world's remaining superpower, that we have to stick our nose into every event taking place in the world. Most of these events do not affect our national security in any way, yet we are spending our blood and treasure to do so.

    Much better all around to change the focus of our national defense and what its priorities should be.

    •  We'll I'd Argue With You There (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ginny in CO

      Not the last point, that we should stop sticking our nose in other nations business. Agreed.

      But our carriers are key IMHO. They are our best way, if needed, to project force.

      I'd start with getting rid of like 99% of our nuclear weapons.

      Bases in Germany, Japan, and Itlay.

      Cut back our tanks by a large amount, until we only have two or three few elite, elite groups.

      Oh and cut back on $160M individual planes, like the F-22 that can't fly in the rain, cost $49,000 in maintenance for every hour of flight, and has so many problems they cause some of our pilots to pass out while flying them.

      That is off the top of my head ....

      When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

      by webranding on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 05:42:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  There are arguments that the carriers will (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        webranding

        be obsolete by the time the one under construction is finished. I at least don't want the ones in the pipeline to get much money. It is hard to predict what kind of stuff may be needed for water wars.

        Tanks, we have 3000 mothballed in Nevada. Once we bring all the stuff home from Afghanistan, they will have to deal with them and another 300 on order...

        The F22s are another one Hartung didn't mention. It really is unbelievably stupid we can't get good planes for as much as we spend.

        "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

        by Ginny in CO on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 06:08:56 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  We don't need carriers to project force if we (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ginny in CO, CupaJoe

        mind our own business. That's my whole point. We should focus on actually being the Department of "Defense" and not the War Department.

        •  We would all like to get rid of the MIC, (0+ / 0-)

          the war provocateurs, and the rest of the war-for-any-reason crowd. Given that the founders wrote the Constitution to protect against the history of what leads to war, that Ike warned us, and we got snookered anyway; the first battle is cutting the funds where we can.

          "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

          by Ginny in CO on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 06:54:13 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  So ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ginny in CO, Gary Norton

    Not sure that we are 'cutting by a scalpel' with sequestration.

    Several things about the list:

    • The LCS (or, as some refer to it, the Little Crappy Ship) has lots of problems. A question, however, is how / whether you see a role for patrolling ships to fight pirates (such as off Somalia), engage with nations in Africa & Latin America, provide patrols in Oceania Pacific that can play a role, if necessary, in war time. If the answer is simply "no", then kill of the ship and 'save the money'.  If the answer is 'yes', then the question turns to 'in not LCS, then what'.  Perhaps a combined Navy-Coast Guard National Security Cutter-based program?  Otherwise ... But, if calling for 'death to LCS', tell whether there is a gap created by 'killing it' and, if so, what should fill it.
    • SSBNs -- These aren't scheduled to start construction for a number of years.  A question becomes whether submarines provide a secure 'reserve' nuclear force that helps keep anyone from wanting to do a preemptive strike.  Also, the "Navy" is a bit terrified of the SSBN cost hit in the 2020s -- it will eat up the shipbuilding budget. There are many in the Navy who would welcome not having this bill.

    Now, what is going on in the face of sequester within DOD is far from 'surgical cuts' but some blunt ax hits that will end up raising costs into the future. The Navy will delay 10s of repair availabilities -- these will have to be done, eventually, at a higher cost with, likely, problems in the interim.

    Now, are there paths for intelligently cutting military expenditures? Yes.  Can DOD be better managed? Yes.  Does "the military" seem to have little clue how resource rich it actually is? Yes.  

    A serious thing, however, is that "procurement" is far from the majority of DOD spending.  It is people and the various benefits.  Sequestration in DOD is going to be much more disrupting of sensible policies than the idiocy of sequestration because military personnel are exempted.  In the CBO, for example, sequestration will mean 3 days of furlough -- who wants this but unlikely to lead to bankruptcies.  DOD civilians (or at least Navy civilians) are being told that they will have 22 days of unpaid furlough -- or roughly 20% of their pay over a five month period.  Flying hours will be drastically cut.  Maintenance projects will be delayed.  Etc ... But, uniformed salary won't be touched.

    Yes, there is a reality that many military personnel have had an extremely tough past decade.  As someone who spent much of the 1990s in what was then 'hazardous duty zones' (all vacation cake walks compared to patrolling in Afghanistan today ...), I have a window of understanding.  However, there are a good share of the military who don't do these dangerous patrols and yet retire with inflation-adjusted pension after 20 years, essentially free health care for life, and other truly 'socialist' goods that they don't recognize as 'socialist'.  

    Thus, in addition to looking at procurement, makes sense to look at personnel policies.  For example, (a) the nation should move to single-payer health insurance (or equivalent) and enroll military families in this -- likely able to cut DOD budget by $30 billion or so while lowering overall national health care costs by an order of magnitude more than that; (b) short of that, require military retirees to pay more reasonable shares of health insurance; (c) in sequestration, include uniformed personnel who are not in deployed or operational billets (explain why a Colonel working on health care policy in DC is more critical than a doctor working at the Center for Disease Control or even the civil servant sitting next to them in the DOD office); etc ...

    And, by the way, lots and lots and lots of paths to work to make DOD and the national security establishment work better. For example, John Hamre (head of CSIS and former DepSecDef) just had an OPED attacking the abysmal inefficiencies in the security clearance process.

    More importantly, our nation should be moving away from the insanity of (lack of) governance by crisis diplomacy and toward sensible decision-making.

    As part of that, the recognition that "national security" includes a decent health care system, strong education, environmental protection, and better management of traditional 'defense' and 'intelligence' resources.

    Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

    by A Siegel on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 06:48:46 AM PST

    •  The scalpel reference was from Obama's (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      A Siegel

      point that the sequestration route is more a meat cleaver. Hartung has specific programs that are better targeted than the broad brush options created by the bitter pill Congress was supposed to avoid actually swallowing.

      Hartung is only one rational voice and many others may have good reasons to differ. I had not seen any covered here. These are the ones I have seen in other places and amount to significant numbers. While the security process is unbelievably outdated, the long overdue revamping may well eat up a significant amount of the savings to be had.

      This is a battle the GOP has to engage in. I am one of those hoping that we can regain the House in '14 and then revisit single payer. Meanwhile I am wanting to get the budget out of the way to see what Kerry will do on climate, let alone steering State into a more proactive role in international cooperation over violence.

      If the other countries are motivated to cooperate on economic, justice, energy, climate and other shared issues, the war mongers will have a harder time trying to get back into raiding the treasury with the usual deceit.

      "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

      by Ginny in CO on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 07:35:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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